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Kavi- Active Studio Monitors ( Review )

square_wave

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There are some rare occasions when you come across complete music systems that wow you with their performance. In these times of skyrocketing prices in high end audio, you tend to remember only those that does wow you but also keep the price points not in the sky but more towards the earth. Each of these experiences happen because the system in question as a “synergistic entity” was doing something special. What each of them does could be slightly different from each other and may appeal to different types of audiophile music lovers but they all matter and are very relevant. Whenever I come across such systems, I usually write about them on this forum.

The first time I got to hear the Kavi active system was at the Acoustic portrait recording label launch event. The event was organized in the same room where I have heard live musical performances and a very high-end playback system in the past. So, I am very familiar with the acoustic properties of this space. I was immediately drawn into the music due to the transparency and communicative abilities of the system. I prodded for more information. I remember mentioning this in the launch event thread in this forum. Further conversations led to AP sending me a pair to review. The system was with me for a week. I will try to stick with simple facts and stay away from any flowery language as much as possible.

Price point : Approx 1, 79000.00

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How is this system different? Why is it relevant?

It is active. What is active?

Passive crossovers in loudspeakers are very popular with speakers designed for the consumer market. This is because the consumer gets flexibility of choice with the amplifier. Audiophiles being very finicky likes this flexibility. This however, comes at a great price as passive crossovers are a significant roadblock in achieving sonic perfection ( of course to the limit that is humanly possible). According to AP, they prefer active crossovers for 3 big reasons.


1. Minimise issues due to phase coherence across frequency spectrum. This improves overall clarity of the sound.

2.
The changes in drivers’ electrical parameters at various sound levels and frequency are isolated to each individual amplifier. This makes it easy for amplifier to control the speakers which has many benefits including lower distortions and improved transient characteristics.

3.
Capacitors and Inductors are not perfect components regardless of cost. However, performance of passive components definitely improves with higher quality components. Cost of high-grade crossover required to offer performance even close to this active system will be prohibitively expensive.


Since the active speaker market is quite niche, it is quite rare to see active crossover that are designed for audiophiles with high grade components and simple circuits unlike the ones you see in professional monitors. This makes the Kavi active system very unique.

When you picturise a true active system, what do you see ? If the system is made of discrete components, you end up with 2 or 3 stereo amplifier units, DSP, an active crossover unit, wires all over the place, a lot of expense ?? Well, that is how it usually stacks up, unless you have all the electronics stuffed into the speaker box which is a compromised solution.

Surprisingly, the Kavi active system is cleverly crafted to take advantage of the performance benefits of discrete components while keeping it simple enough. It consists of a pair of loudspeakers and its companion which is a 4 channel amplifier and active crossover in one chassis. I will call this a “control unit” henceforth. This “single chassis” for all the electronics is a very clever approach that saves a lot space.

Connections.
You connect the RCA from your DAC ( if it has a volume control ) or from your preamp to the inputs of the control unit. From the unit, professional speakon connector terminated single cable carries 2 channels of amplified signal to each speaker. AP has decided to use a single speakon connector to achieve this instead of providing 2 pairs of binding posts on the speakers. Chances of people inverting connections between the highs and lows are very high. In the absence of a crossover in the speaker, this can potentially damage the speaker. So, I think this is a good idea. From what I know, there are a few professional grade wires you can choose if you want to experiment.

What happens in the control unit ?
In the unit, the active crossover splits the signals and sends it to the 4 channels of class A/B amplification within the unit. No class D business here. There is also a convenient level adjustment at the back of the unit which helps control volume levels in case you have a source which has low or too high output levels.

Setting up the system was a breeze. I used the volume control in my Chord hugo for controlling the levels. The speakers were setup on a stand that was supplied by AP. The stands weren’t that great. This means that if one were to invest in an optimal stand and a dedicated preamp, the performance might go up a notch.

Why am I impressed?
This is performance of very high standards folks ! I am talking transparency, resolving capability, timing and phase coherence that you hear only in systems that are very painstakingly chosen via trial and error and then carefully setup. If people are familiar with the sound of full systems from AP, they will immediately develop a liking for the overall sound and performance. I believe a lot of this has to do with the active nature of the system. And the beauty of this whole thing is that you get it all in one go. You are spared the prolonged phases of discovery that can sometimes be excruciatingly long and expensive as you wade through the swamps of myths, belief systems and hype for many years.

Music used in the review (for some context)



1. Paul Simon, Graceland

2.
Pink Floyd, The Wall, Division bell ( many songs )

3.
Stevie Ray Vaughan, Tin pan Alley

4.
Bob Marley, Japanese remaster

5.
Dave Brubeck, Time out

6.
Eric Clapton, Reptile

7.
Dire straits, Fade to black, My parties

8.
Gene Harris, Best of concord years.

9.
Karlos Kleiber, Beethoven’s no:5, Vienna Philharmonic

10.
Nikolai Rimsky Korasov, Allegro molto

11.
Hugo Masakela, Stimela

12.
Ella and Louis

13.
Miles Davis, Kind of blue

14.
Indian classical, 2 albums from the acoustic portrait label

15.
Gundecha Brothers, couple of albums

16.
Rashid Khan



The overall experience.

The soundstage forms at least 1 feet in front of the speaker. This means you get a front seat experience. This is not a rolled off, laid back speaker. It stands up and performs. But this front seat performance is complemented by good depth in the soundstage. I don’t have much space behind my speakers, but I experimented to test this out. Instruments and performers are nicely etched in their own space and they have a body to them. There is a sense of air. With the Beethoven’s 5th, in the 3rd movement, when the horns kick in… they sounded full and real with a sense of space around them. The interplay between the string sections thereafter was a joyful experience. Fantastic scale for the size of the speakers. I was trying hard to hear any hardness in the sound that are reported by people who try professional monitors at home. I could hear none of it, I swear. The tone is true instead of being romantic.

The true dynamics test was with Tin Pan Alley. The dynamic contrasts were an absolute treat. Explosive and almost full bodied performance that belies the size of the speakers. Real bass extension ( for the size of the speaker) with tonnes of detail.

Ella and Louis, Rashid Khan, Gundecha Brothers gave a glimpse into their capabilities with midrange. I am fairly convinced that they played in the room instead of, from inside the speakers. Do they sound like Harbeths or blumenhofers with vocals ? I don’t think so. All I know is that I was impressed by how real they sounded through the Kavi speakers.

Rock sounded pretty good too. I played a lot of Pink Floyd, Paul Simon, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Dire straits. There is this addictive bassline in Paul Simon’s “ Diamonds on the soles of her shoes “. Most speakers make the bass be heard nice and full. With good speaker / amp synergy, this bass line distinctively moves out of the way from the rest of the music but forms this complex personality which is integral to the song. It is full of subtle nuances and detail, micro and macro. It is always there and communicating in so many subtle ways occupying the same space in your head as the singer. Kavi did this very well.

Jazz. Kind of blue. Each of the artists in this album are masters in their craft. Can you hear the craft well instead of focusing on the hifi. I was able to that with Kavi.

Hindustani and Carnatic music sounds ethereal through these speakers. Some of the albums on the AP label is such a treat to the ears. Transparent, expressive and dynamic. Good sense of air around the events in the soundstage. Full bodied presence of each musician and instrument. Very good representation of the live event.

Who is this for ?
This speaker is just a transparent window into the music. The sound is In line with professional monitors. If you like that sound, you should definitely check these out. I personally think this is the most transparent window into music you can get for the outlay in India today. You can certainly tune the sound if you like by adding a preamp of your choice. You can play around with tubes in the preamp. You can also play with different dacs.

Who this may not work for ?
If you are after a certain sound and / or focussed performance criteria that comes only if you mix and match different high-end gear.

I think the audiophile community is lucky to get such a cleverly crafted system for this outlay in India. Do audition if you are in the market for a system that is a transparent window into the music. Great Job, Acoustic portrait!








 
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AVM

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Insightful review. Seens like a good alternative to more expensive ATC and liked.
What are the power specs of the control unit? I believe they also have a tower version.
 

square_wave

Well-Known Member
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Aug 16, 2006
Messages
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Location
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Insightful review. Seens like a good alternative to more expensive ATC and liked.
What are the power specs of the control unit? I believe they also have a tower version.
160W per channel @ 8Ω, Class AB bi-amplification​

For more information.
 
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square_wave

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 16, 2006
Messages
2,908
Points
113
Location
Bangalore
I got couple of messages asking how they will perform with different types of music like Metal, Pop ? Are they an all rounder ?

Well, I played way more music than what I mentioned in the review. All kinds of jazz, hard rock, folk, classical and pop.

These speakers are definitely all-rounders. They played all kinds of music well. However, for the review, I used popular music on purpose. It helps give some context to a wider audience.
 
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